TV Tidbit: The Closing Credits of Good Times
TV theme songs seem to go in and out of fashion, but I have always found them to be the soul of a TV show and I am ecstatically glad nowadays when shows have one. The melody and the tone of its lyrics of a TV theme song set up the viewer each week, reminding them of their favorite programs, evoking an emotional memory that draws them back into the characters and their predicaments. Recently, I was re-watching the 1970s sitcom Good Times. For those who do not know it, it tells the story of Florida and James Evans, an African-American family living in near-poverty, trying to make ends meet, in the projects of Chicago. The theme song, by Dave Grusin (music) and Marilyn Bergman and Alan Bergman (lyrics), is a bold and ironic statement, musing at the how everyone is “scratchin’ and survivin’”. What I never absorbed until recently is the reworking of the song for the show’s closing credits. Three lines of new lyrics sung to a more contemplative version of the melody are shear poetry, summing up the world of Good Times with economy and impact. I suddenly found myself emotional and achingly connected to show in a way I hadn’t before:
Powerful imagery here. That’s what a good TV theme song does. It encapsulates everything about that show in a simple thirty or forty-second ditty.
Fun Fact: Good Times was a spin-off of the TV show Maude, which was, itself, a spin-off of the sitcom All in the Family. Mike Evans, who one of the show’s creators and writers, appeared on another sitcom: The Jeffersons as Lionel Jefferson. The Jeffersons was another spin-off on All in the Family, the show where the character of Lionel was introduced. All four of these hit TV shows were produced by Norman Lear.